How I Triumphed Over Multiple Traumas
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142 pages

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Over the past 9 decades Ernie Nullmeyer has had his share of mountain top experiences but along with them came many deep valleys. The devastating, often painful vicissitudes of his life would have overwhelmed most people. But Ernie learned that the secret to a joyful, effervescent, meaningful life is not in some skill related to avoiding the troubles, uncertainty and suffering that life will bring, but in responding to everything that comes our way with a God-trusting, persevering attitude. In this grand story of his long, incredible, sometimes traumatic yet often prosperous life, Ernie mixes a perfect blend of personal history and overcoming-theology as he shares the secrets he has learned in his journey. Applying what he calls his 3 important principles and seven main pillars, anyone can also build a foundation for a successful, triumphant life.



Publié par
Date de parution 09 septembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781927355954
Langue English

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I have had the privilege of meeting many people in my life, and to me some stand out as game changers, which is how I would describe my good friend Ernie Nullmeyer. When I first met him over 40 years ago, I sensed that he was a special person. His confident, friendly manner and mile-wide smile told me that I was in the presence of a unique and gifted individual. As I got to know him better and watched him in the pulpit and working with others, I saw a man who didn’t just love God but adored Him.
Ernie lives and breathes the Word of God and delights in its revelation. He is an extraordinary communicator whose command of the written and spoken word has helped him to witness for his Lord so powerfully for over 60 years. Whether as a radio broadcaster, a preacher, a pastor, a family man or a friend, Ernie has always had two hands in the air reaching up to God and those same two hands reaching out to those in need. As the leader of the Barrie and District Christmas Cheer Association for nearly 30 years, Ernie lived out his faith, helping thousands of less-fortunate men, women and children to celebrate Christmas with food on the table and toys under the tree. He led an army of volunteers to create a living, breathing testament to the words of Jesus “ Love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matthew 19:19) and showed how much he cared for others through sacrificial service and selfless commitment. Rightfully earning the nickname “Mr. Christmas,” Ernie helped spread joy and hope to people who were lonely and in need of help, a position he well understood, as he would often reflect on his own boyhood memories of his family receiving assistance when they were in a time of financial difficulty.
Our pastor recently preached on the theme “Healthy voices in your life accelerate healthy choices in your life.” When I think of the people that God has brought into my life, Ernie Nullmeyer is one of those healthy voices, helping me to make wiser choices. His buoyant enthusiasm, consistent witness and unquestionable integrity have encouraged me to grow in my faith and commitment to our Lord. God has blessed this man with many wonderful gifts, all of which he has invested wisely through his many years of Christian living and ministry, which you will discover for yourself as you read this book. Ernie has dedicated his whole life to putting into practice the spirit of the two greatest commandments: “Love God and serve others” (see Luke 10:27).
Jeff Walther
Long-time Broadcaster
My Tribute to Ernie Nullmeyer
A Man Blessed of God
As you look back in retrospect
You have much in which to rejoice
For all the blessings from our Lord
As you made Him your choice.
God has been faithful through your years
He’s blessed you with so much
He’s used your “gifts” in manifold ways
So many other lives to touch
You’ve been such a great blessing
To many along the way
Being a pastor, friend and guide
Knowing just the right words to say
You’ve left an imprint on many lives
You’ve been a mentor and friend
May God reward you continuously
Until your earthly journey ends.
Written for my favourite pastor and friend
By Jean Anderson
(nee McDonald)
As a young boy, Ernie Nullmeyer was “bigger than life” to me! One weekend my parents took me to Barrie to visit my grandparents, who attended Emmanuel Baptist Church where Ernie was the pastor. On the Sunday, we all attended the worship service at Emmanuel. I had never been in a church where the service was broadcast on the radio. I was fascinated by it all—and more so by the complete sense of peace that Ernie had as he welcomed the radio listeners and entered into his sermon.
He was an amazing preacher—his strong voice and evident sense of confidence in what he was speaking about spoke volumes about him as a person and orator. He had this great smile and a twinkle in his eye that conveyed a great love for the Word of God, his parishioners and his radio audience.
I could hardly wait to get back to Barrie, simply to hear Ernie preach. As I shook his hand upon departure, he made me feel so very welcome and valued. While there were further visits, the next moment of deeper memory came when Ernie took on the role of conference director at the famed Canadian Keswick Conference on Lake Rosseau in Muskoka. I had a similar role just up the lake at Keswick Youth Camp. Our friendship intersected on many occasions. The enterprise was challenged financially, which had significant impact on our leadership at many levels but more so for Ernie and his family than for me. His dependence upon God and his patience during very stressful moments impressed me deeply as a younger leader and have carried on to this day.
As the years have gone by, we each have faced trying times and changes in our leadership contexts. Once again, Ernie’s approach to life—to serve God fully and humbly and to be a blessing to others—has challenged me to bask in God’s presence and to allow His Spirit to touch each moment of my day and in turn to be a blessing to others.
I am so thankful for Ernie’s mentoring example over these many years.
John H. Wilkinson D.D.
Chancellor, Tyndale University College and Seminary
Executive Coach and Strategist, Youth For Christ Toronto and Canada
“Young man,” the preacher asked me, “what would happen to you if you met death tonight?” These words burned into my heart on May 24, 1954, I as sat in a Christian youth rally, listening to a 25-year-old dynamic preacher by the name of Rev. Ernest Nullmeyer, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Barrie, Ontario. I was 17 and had been in trouble with the law and living a rather reckless and purposeless life.
Neighbours of ours who had recently become Christians through the ministry of Pastor Nullmeyer invited my mom and me to go with them to a service at Emmanuel. My mom wanted to go and persuaded me to go with her. The first thing that amazed me was how many youth were in attendance, and the second thing was how young and dynamic the preacher was. At the service Pastor Nullmeyer encouraged the youth to attend an upcoming out-of-town youth rally at which he was to be the guest preacher. It was Pastor Ernie’s inspiring and passionate preaching that inspired me to attend the youth rally, where I realized my need to accept Christ as my Lord and Saviour, which I did that day in May 1954. Through the exemplary life and teaching of His servant Pastor Ernie, God transformed my life forever.
Pastor Ernie encouraged me—with only a grade 8 education—to go to Toronto Bible College (now Tyndale University and College), which he had graduated from. There I graduated with a bachelor of theology. He has been a sterling role model for me for 62 years and also a spiritual “brother” and “father.” My own father took his life when I was three years old.
Pastor Ernie is a man of God with an amazing knowledge of God’s Word, which he articulates with great clarity and passion and lives by daily. He is also blessed with a wonderful infectious sense of humour through which he blesses many each and every day.
Fred Campbell
Retired Missionary to the Philippines and Social Worker with Children’s Aid Society

How I Triumphed Over Multiple Traumas With A Smile On My Face, Sparkle In My Eyes, Sping In My Steps And Song On My Lips
Copyright ©2017 Ernie Nullmeyer
All rights reserved
Printed in Canada
ISBN 978-1-927355-21-3 Soft Cover
ISBN 978-1-927355-95-4 E-book
Published by: Castle Quay Books
Tel: (416) 573-3249
E-mail: |
Book design by Burst Impressions
Printed at Essence Publishing, Belleville
All rights reserved. This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission of the publishers.
Unless otherwise marked Scripture is taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. • Scriptures marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. • Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version, which is in the public domain. • Scriptures marked (WEB) are taken from the World English Bible which is in the public domain.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Nullmeyer, Ernie, author
How I Triumphed Over Multiple Traumas
/ Ernie Nullmeyer.
ISBN 978-1-927355-21-3 (softcover)
1. Nullmeyer, Ernie. 2. Success. 3. Autobiographies.
I. Title.
BF637.S8N85 2017 158.1 C2017-905410-4

Part One: Traumas Revealed
1. Loss of My Chosen Vocation
2. Loss of Employment
3. Loss of Employment Again
4. Loss of My Beloved First Wife
5. Loss of My Beloved Son
6. “Loss” of My Beloved Wife Through Alzheimer’s
Part Two: Traumas Relieved
Chapter 1: Traumas Relieved Through Three Principles
1 Accept the Circumstances
2. Adapt to the Circumstances
3. Advance in Spite of the Circumstances
Chapter 2: Traumas Relieved Through Seven Pillars
1. A Strong Faith
2. A Light Spirit
3. A Gratitude-Attitude
4. A Multiplicity of Diversions
5. A Healthy Lifestyle
6. An Altruistic Spirit
7. Family and Friends
1 Bad Things and God’s Will
2 Death’s Sting “Be Gone!”
3 Praise and Worship
4 Living Happily Ever After

Dedicated to my beloved son Kevin
who completed his earthly journey
and commenced his eternal journey
August 9, 2010
“I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
(2 Samuel 12:23)
And to my beloved grandchildren,
who keep their grandpa “young in spirit”
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget
the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart
as long as you live. Teach them to your children and
to their children after them.
(Deuteronomy 4:9)

Often when I am out and about and people discover my age and see evidence of how unusually healthy I am in my eighties, I will get asked something like “What is your secret?” My response is always “I don’t know if there’s any secret to it, but I do have three principles and seven pillars that I live by, and of course a little good fortune is involved as well.” As time is usually of the essence when I am asked that question, I decided it was time for me to put into print those principles and pillars that have enabled me—in spite of many traumatic experiences—to enjoy a healthy, joyous life.
I say “in spite of” because it’s easy to look at someone like me who has a sunny, effervescent, insouciant approach to life and assume that the person has never had any bad experiences to deal with. I guess the old cliché is appropriate here: “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” Often after I have preached a sermon on the subject of pain and shared a number of my painful experiences, someone will say to me on the way out, “I always assumed you hadn’t had any painful experiences.” You see, it’s not so much what we have to deal with in life but how we deal with it that matters!
That is what this book is about. Life is a long, winding, uncertain road, and none of us knows what’s around the bend for us; nor in many cases would we want to know. I’m sure we can all agree that “The greatest certainty in life is uncertainty” (a Nully Nugget).
Readers may wonder where that designation “Nully Nugget” originated. I had the pleasure of having five Dutch sisters work for my decorating company, and when new employees would come on board, they would often ask, “What should we call the boss? Shall we call him ‘Reverend’ or ‘Mr. Nullmeyer’ or what?” The sisters got together and decided that my new title and nickname would be “Nully,” and I liked it. The “Nugget” idea came from my son Kevin, who had a master’s degree in marketing and was always full of great new ideas. I liked it, and it stuck.
Speaking of my beloved son Kevin brings forth another reason I have written this book. Kevin often urged me to put my Nully Nuggets into print and also to write a follow-up to my memoirs. He would say, “Dad, you have had a lot of losses in your life, and yet you just keep on smiling and singing. I think that writing about those losses and yet coming through them without being bitter would be a great inspiration to people.” I thought for a long time about taking Kevin up on his advice but kept putting it off as I knew it would take an incredible amount of time and energy to write a book that I could be proud of and people would want to read. I just kept mulling around in my mind what the title of the book would be and what the structure would look like.
And then came the moment when I sat down at my computer and commenced putting my thoughts into words. That moment was about a week after family and friends had gathered to celebrate Kevin’s life. That very sad story is related in part 1, Traumas Revealed, chapter 5, “Loss of My Beloved Son.” I kept asking God, “How am I going to get over this one?” And then the answer came loud and clear into my mind and spirit: “Start writing that book Kevin talked to you about and dedicate it to him.”
So one morning—bright and early, following breakfast and my exercises—I sat down at my computer and prayed, “Lord, through Your Holy Spirit, guide me in every word I should include in the book, so that it will be an inspiration to all who read it.”
Little did I know back when he suggested it that my dear Kevin would never get to read the book he so passionately encouraged me to write. However, he has been with me in spirit throughout the writing of the manuscript, and I know that he will be looking down from heaven with that wonderful smile he so often had on his face, pleased that I took his advice.
The third reason I decided to put my thoughts in print is because since my youth I have desired and tried to be a blessing in some little way to everyone who comes across my pathway. I want this book to be a blessing—in some little way—to everyone who reads it.
My desire for you—as you read the book and as you live out your life—is beautifully and poignantly expressed by the apostle Paul in his letter to his fellow believers at Rome: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit ” (Romans 15:13, emphasis added).
May your life and mine be not just filled “ with all joy and peace ” but overflowing with that joy, peace and hope! Overflowing to bless others ! Amen!

I have divided the book into two parts. In part 1, Traumas Revealed, I share some of the major traumas I have experienced in my life. This is not for the purpose of trying to gain pity but rather as a lead-in to part 2, Traumas Relieved, with the hope that my experience of triumphing over the multiple traumas of my life will bring hope and inspiration to others. In this part of the book I reveal how I accomplished this through three principles and seven pillars and thus became a better person rather than a bitter person.
It is true that the apostle Paul tells us that God’s grace is sufficient for any situation in life and that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), but it is also true that God expects us —as His children—to live wisely and to be willing to do our part when dealing with the traumas that come storming completely unexpectedly into our lives. Just as sailors setting out to sea have a plan for dealing with a potential (and likely) storm, so we need to have a plan in place for when we are going to be in the midst of a storm in our life. In the book I describe the plan that (with God’s help and wisdom) has enabled me to get through the storms of my life triumphantly . Yes, God has promised us that His “ grace is sufficient ” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that He will give us His wisdom (James 1:5), but that doesn’t mean that God is going to work out every problem for us without any effort on our part. As the old adage puts it, “God helps those who help themselves.” It also doesn’t mean that our Lord Jesus is always going to still the storm (Matthew 8:23–26), but it does mean that He will be with us in the midst of the storm (Acts 27:23–24). How often in my life I have prayed that God would still the storm—such as healing my beloved wife Marion and my beloved son Kevin and not allowing Alzheimer’s to take over my beloved Carolyn’s life—but He didn’t do any of those things.
However, all through those storms and every storm of my life, God has given me His sweet peace and a sense of His glorious presence. I love Annie J. Flint’s hymn “God Has Not Promised,” which I have sung often through my trials and traumas:
God has not promised skies always blue
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through.
God has not promised sun without rain
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain…
God has not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep
Never a river, turbid and deep
But God has promised strength for the day
Rest for the labor, light for the way
Grace for the trials, help from above
Unfailing kindness, undying love.
Another hymn that has been an inspiration to me during challenging times in my life is “Wonderful Peace,” written by Warren D. Cornell (1889), which I hum to myself every night as part of my getting-to-sleep routine:
Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm.
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.
Peace, peace, wonderful peace
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!
The book is partly autobiographical and partly a synthesis of my theological and philosophical beliefs with my home-spun theories woven in, and taken together they reveal the person I am. Where we may disagree on any issue, I trust we will do so agreeably.
One day when Pastor Brown was out visiting the flock the Lord said to him, “I want you to drop around and see Mrs. Green today and get matters resolved between you.”
“Oh Lord,” the pastor responded, “anyone but Mrs. Green.”
“No,” insisted the Lord, “I want you to visit Mrs. Green.”
So the pastor drove around to the house, went up to the door and gently knocked on the door (hoping Mrs. Green wouldn’t hear it). “Press the bell,” said the Lord. He did, and he heard a movement on the inside. So he knelt down and peered into the keyhole, and there on the other side was Mrs. Green, peering into the same keyhole.
“Oh, Mrs. Green,” the pastor blurted out, “finally, after ten years, we are seeing eye to eye.”
You, my readers, may not see “eye to eye” with me on every issue I have written about, but it is my prayer that what you read in this book will bring hope and inspiration to your life and the conclusion that God really does care about you.
Our Lord assured us of that when He said to His disciples, and thus to us, “ Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Wow! What wonderful assurance of God’s love and care for us! No wonder our Lord admonished His disciples to stop worrying about what they were going to eat and drink and wear (Matthew 6:28–32).
As there are (of necessity) some heavy parts in the book, I have endeavoured to keep it (in keeping with my light spirit) as light and smile-inducing as possible.
Anyone who knows me will know that if there is a “silver lining” to be found in any cloud of a trauma, I will gravitate toward that silver lining.
It is my desire that the primary thesis of the book will be not about me but about God’s grace, goodness and greatness and for His glory alone, a story of how God has enabled me to be more than triumphant through every vicissitude of my life.
I’m reminded of the many traumatic situations that the apostle Paul experienced in his desire to spread the Good News of the gospel throughout the world. In his letter to his fellow believers at Corinth, he lists 20 of them (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). And yet, in spite of all that he had to go through, he came through triumphantly , a living example of what he wrote to his fellow believers at Rome, declaring unto them that “ In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us ” (Romans 8:37), the verse I have used as the theme for this book.
As we go through challenging times in our life, we have choices to make. We can choose to be bitter or better, lugubrious of spirit or light of spirit. We can allow our adversities to break us down or build us up. We can hold “pity parties” or “praise parties.” And we can choose to be victims or victors. The choice is ours! I have chosen—through God’s grace and strength—the latter of each of these choices. I trust that will be your choice also.
Paul wrote that in all the hardships he had been through in life, he kept in mind that “ We have this treasure [of the gospel] in jars of clay ”—the metaphor he uses for our bodies—“ to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us ” (2 Corinthians 4:7). We too, as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, can experience this all-surpassing power, whatever traumatic experiences we have to go through in life. Praise be to God!
Finally, this is a very practical, down-to-earth book, written by a very practical, down-to-earth person. My prayer is that it will be an inspiration to all who read it.


Loss of My Chosen Vocation
Following my graduation in theology at Toronto Bible College, my first wife and I were married in a beautiful wedding in May 1950. We were both in excellent health at the time, but little did we know that in her early thirties, Marion would be facing a very serious chronic illness that would cause her great physical and emotional suffering. It would also change the course of my vocational life, for which God had gifted me and I had trained.
Marion Slight and I had met at my seventeenth birthday party, which was sponsored by a girl in our church youth group who worked with Marion at General Electric in Toronto, where both of them were secretaries. Marion attended a different church and was a committed Christian, singing in the church choir and teaching a girls’ Sunday school class. I too was very involved in my church, teaching a boys’ Sunday school class and leading a Friday evening “Happy Hour.” It was a program for children ages 5 through 12 that featured Gospel choruses, stories, and Bible-illustrating dramas that I wrote, performed in and directed. As I look back on that period of my life it’s hard to believe that I was involved like that while still in my teens, but I already knew that my life work would be in full-time Christian service.
Marion and I had a very happy and activity-filled courtship, even though it was a very difficult time in her life. Her dad had recently been evicted from their home for committing an offence too repulsive to go into here. It’s interesting that at the time Marion was dealing with the pain of witnessing her dad being evicted from their home, I too was dealing with a similar painful problem.
Also she had a 30-year-old brother with Down Syndrome, who took up most of her mother’s time. She and her other siblings had always felt neglected by their mother, which often happens in families where there is a child who demands almost full-time attention.
However, in spite of all that was going on in her home, Marion was a beautiful fun-loving teenager.
As I didn’t have any money saved up from my many summer jobs to attend college, my parents were not able to help me financially, and there were at that time no government student grants or loans, I needed to work for a year.
I applied for a position I saw advertised for a high school graduate to be assistant to the purchasing agent of a company located in the east end of Toronto that manufactured dry cleaning equipment. I received a phone call to set up an interview. I travelled by streetcar (three different ones) to get to the interview, and when I heard more details about the job (including an attractive salary for a kid just out of high school), I thought, Wow! I would like this job.
In a few days I received a phone call from the general manager informing me that I had been accepted for the position and I was to report the following Monday. Wow! What exciting news: my very first full-time job!
On the Monday, I was up bright and early, dressed in the one and only suit I owned, and it was “It’s off to work I go,” as the seven dwarfs in Snow White sang. I received a warm welcome from all the office staff and spent a few days beside the purchasing agent to get my introduction into the world of purchasing. I loved every minute of the job, and after six months I was ecstatic at receiving my first pay increase. Soon I was working on my own, contacting companies by phone to order parts and tools for the factory. I then had to confirm those calls with a typed-out purchase order. What a blessing that I had learned typing skills in high school and in fact was one of the top students in the class!
What I didn’t know when I accepted the job was that the company was in the process of building a large new factory and offices in Newmarket. The move to the new location was planned for sometime in early spring. When asked if I would make the move, I didn’t hesitate. It would be a great experience for me.
One problem I had was where I would live in the town. No need to worry, as the manager of the painting department, learning that I had decided to go to Newmarket, asked if I would like room and board in his home. He and his wife had just moved into a brand new large house in the town and, as they didn’t have any children, thought it would be great to have a young man reside in their home. Once again—as so often in my life—my mom’s favourite Bible verse came to mind: “ God will provide ” (Genesis 22:8, NKJV). And He did! The lovely couple (Alf and Ruth) indeed did treat me like a son; in fact they spoiled me with great meals and lots of TLC (tender loving care).
During the time I worked in Newmarket I travelled by bus to Toronto each weekend to spend time with Marion and my family, and we both continued as Sunday school teachers.
As I was coming to the end of the summer, I had to keep wrestling with the fact that in my heart I knew that God was calling me to full-time Christian service, to be a preacher and pastor. I had to make a decision: Would it be purchasing or preaching? The question had to be settled, and soon! My mom of course had never stopped praying that I would become a preacher. I must confess that the temptation to remain in my present situation was very tempting. I would be able to dress like the purchasing agent (I have always loved nice clothes!), drive a car like he did (I have always loved nice cars!), and live in a nice new house like he did (I had only lived in old rented houses). What to do? I had been taught in my youth that if you have a major decision to make in life, you should spend time in the Word of God and prayer. I dedicated a whole night to doing just that, wrestling with God, and by morning my decision had been made. God and my mom had won out! I would make an appointment with the Toronto Bible College registrar and apply to become a student at the college.
The day after making my decision I made an appointment to meet with the general manager of the company to inform him of my decision to resign from the job and go to Bible college. His response was “Barber college? Why would you leave a position like you have with all its potential to become a barber?” I then said the word “Bible” more clearly and that I was going to train to become a minister. His retort was “That sounds more like something you would go into.”
On my last day with the company the staff held a going-away party for me and presented me with a lovely leather briefcase, engraved with my name, which I would use daily at college.
I travelled to Toronto one day to meet with the registrar of the college and apply as a student. In a few days I received a response from him that I had been accepted. Wow! Now I was on my way to becoming what God had been calling me to, a preacher of the Word of God and a pastor to all who would become my parishioners.
Toronto Bible College had been established for the sole purpose of training young men and women for full-time Christian ministry, to serve either as missionaries in a foreign land or in pastoral ministry. I spent wonderful and spiritually enriching years getting deep into the study of God’s Word and taking many other related subjects that would prepare me well for my chosen vocation. The curriculum included intense studies of the Bible verse by verse, systematic theology, pastoral psychology, homiletics (art of preparing a sermon), public speaking, Church history, pastoral counselling, psychology, logic (learning about syllogisms), apologetics and more.
During that time, Marion continued in her secretarial job and took evening courses at the same college. We also both continued to teach a Sunday school class in our own churches.
As my parents were not able to provide any financial support, it was necessary for me to work evenings and summers at part-time jobs, even though I had saved up considerable funds from my job in Newmarket. I also wanted to put away funds for when Marion and I would get married following my graduation.
Having to carry a full student workload and also work part-time didn’t leave me much time to date Marion, but as the saying goes, “Love finds a way”—and it did! I felt a little envious of the students whose parents could afford to pay their way, and they could just lounge around in the men’s lounge and socialize after school hours. Due to my heavy school load and part-time work load, it became necessary for me to resign from the student council as chair of evangelism. This was a very deep disappointment for me, but as the saying goes, “That’s how life goes!”
To save money, I rode my brother’s new bike to school every day when the weather was good, even though the streetcar fare was just 25 cents for four tickets. Every so often my dear dad and sister Marjorie would give me money so that I could take the streetcar.
Two part-time evening jobs I had were packing margarine at a factory and assisting the maintenance manager of the college in cleaning the many areas of the college. I packed margarine into cartons as they sped along the conveyor belts. It now reminds me of the scene where Lucy and Ethel on the I Love Lucy show were packing chocolates in the chocolate factory, and after their mouths couldn’t hold any more, they stuffed them wherever their imaginations led them to. If you remember that one, you will still be able to laugh heartily.
When we were packing the margarine, we had to include one of the colouring packets that were used to change the margarine from white to look more like butter. Farmers insisted that the margarine could not resemble butter. It was such silliness, which of course changed through the years. I worked Monday to Friday evenings from five to nine and made very good money, as it was piecework and I worked very quickly.
During the last two years of my studies, I assisted the maintenance manager in cleaning many areas of the college each day after classes. It was very convenient to have this part-time job without having to travel anywhere. It was a job I enjoyed very much, and it paid quite well. The manager often told me that the school had never looked so clean. I had learned to do housekeeping properly when I was a boy, and it was good training for when I would have to do it so often during my married life. All of my older sisters went out to work in their mid-teens, so we younger ones were assigned many household duties. We washed and dried the dishes and put them in their proper place in the cupboard, mopped or swept the linoleum kitchen floor after every meal, cleaned the toilet (yes, one toilet for 12 people!) and dusted around the house. We seldom ever complained, as we knew it had to be done, my mom was too busy with all her responsibilities, and my older sisters were out to work.
In order to earn enough money for the forthcoming school year, I needed to work summer jobs, as well as the after-class jobs I worked at during the school year. I will share two of the most interesting ones.
As I approached the end of my first year at Bible college I prayed that God would lead me as to what I should work at for the summer. Then I had a phone call from the superintendent of home missions for our denomination—Dr. John F. Halliday—to ask if I would be interested in serving the Lord for the summer in Quebec at a Christian children’s camp. I told him I would pray about it. My first thought naturally was How will Marion and I deal with being separated for four months and not being able to enjoy activities together? We prayed about it, and we realized that as soldiers of the Cross it was a small price to pay, particularly when compared to the cost soldiers pay when they go off to war for Canada. Many of them never return to their loves, while others return physically or psychologically wounded for life. My second thought was more practical— This job will be good training for my vocation. Some days later I phoned Dr. Halliday back to tell him that I would accept his proposal, and we set up a meeting to discuss details.
Two weeks later I was on my way by train to Montreal. Marion and I had said our sad farewells for the summer, finding it of course very difficult to think of four months of being separated. I also of course said my goodbyes to my family. Mom was in tears, but she assured me she would be praying for me every day.
The founder and director of the camp picked me up at the train station and drove me to the camp, just outside Lachute, which is 62 kilometres west of Montreal. When I found out that the months of May and June would involve long hours of hard physical work, I wondered how I would ever get through it. Log cabins had to be built, and we had to construct a high concrete wall to dam the waters of a pond for a swimming pool. The work on the dam went from early morning to late in the evening, and I can still remember vividly the bites from the swarms of black flies, which left welts on any areas of our skin that were uncovered, and scratching at them all night long. We also had to erect hydro poles to provide electricity for the camp facilities.
It’s actually more correct to say “the boulder that God used to save my life.” During the erection of one of the 40-foot cedar hydro poles, the man who was supposed to direct the bottom of the pole into the hole lost his footing and the control of the pole. As a result, the pole slipped past the hole, resulting in it crashing groundward. All of the men jumped out of the way—except me. The pole came down on me with its full weight, and had it not been for a boulder that suspended the pole, my neck would have been crushed, and I probably would not have lived to tell this amazing story or to fulfill my vision of becoming a preacher and pastor. God had protected me, as He had plans for my future. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, put it this way to God’s people: “ I know the plans I have for you ” (Jeremiah 29:11). That rock has often reminded me of Psalm 18:2: “ The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer…in whom I take my refuge .” The rock on the ground in Quebec was certainly the one that provided refuge for me (my neck and my life) that day. Praise be to God!
In the first week of July the boys and girls began to arrive for a one- or two-week stay at the camp. These were children from the St. Henri district, a community southwest of Montreal made famous by author Gabrielle Roy’s book The Tin Flute . Back then it had a mixture of English- and French-speaking families. The children who came to the camp were from the English section of the city, most of them from families that were struggling financially and many of them from dysfunctional homes. Many of them attended the Sunday school of the church that was pastored by the owner of the camp. What a great opportunity to touch these lives with the love of Jesus! My experience of teaching Sunday school classes and directing the children’s hour at my local church in years past was a definite advantage.
Throughout the summer, I was a camp counsellor in one of the many log cabins we had built earlier in the summer and was in charge of the after-breakfast devotional time each morning. Of course those who have worked at summer camps will know that you just fill in here and there and do whatever is needed to be done.
As I was very lonely at times, being away from Marion and my family, I was blessed to have wonderful fellowship with the camp staff.
The downside of the summer was that the owner of the camp was not able to pay me very much for my summer’s work, and it meant that I would have to work longer hours at part-time jobs in the upcoming year at college. Not getting remunerated at the same level as other people with the same skills and training is something you have to get accustomed to in full-time Christian service. It’s all part of the price you pay. You had better not be in it for the money!
On my last day at the camp, the owner drove me to Montreal to board the train for Toronto Union Station, where Marion would meet me and we would once again be in each other’s loving arms (and for quite a while too!). We decided that on Saturday we would go to Centre Island for a picnic. That day I met Marion at her home, where she and her mother had prepared a delicious picnic lunch. We took the streetcar to the docks and boarded an island ferry. What a joy to be together again after a long four-month separation! What we didn’t know was that the next summer we would be separated again, but at least not so far away from each other.
I was coming to the second year of my theological studies, and I wondered what I should do for the summer. I soon had the answer.
Dr. Halliday, the same man who had phoned me about working at the camp in Quebec, called me again, with the news that a little Baptist church in east Hamilton was looking for someone to be their pastor for the summer, with perhaps a view to calling him as their full-time pastor. The pastor of the church had just resigned, as he had run into some major issues with the board of elders and membership. It didn’t sound like the happiest situation to get involved in, but it seemed to me like a great opportunity to get my feet wet (as the saying goes) in what I believed would be my life’s work. I had already learned a great deal in my years at Bible college about preaching and pastoring, so I was excited about putting some of it into practice. I agreed to take on the assignment, and within days I had packed my bags and was on the train to go live with a delightful elderly couple for the summer and commence my first pastoral experience.
Of course there were many firsts, including observing our Lord’s Supper (Communion), baptizing new believers, and officiating at my first wedding ceremony and first funeral service. I didn’t experience any anxiety or nervousness before or during any of these firsts, as being in the public eye has always come naturally to me. And further I was leaning on the promise that “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me ” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).
We had a humorous experience at one of our Communion services. The lady who prepared the elements also prepared her son’s lunch each morning before he left for work at the steel company. This Sunday she buttered the slices of bread and put in a couple of tomatoes. Unfortunately, she got the bags mixed up, and when I went to break the bread, I had butter all over my fingers. I just went through with the service, and we all had a good laugh about it after. Perhaps Mrs. Bell was trying to butter up her pastor or congregants referred to their pastor after the service as “Butterfingers.”
Although being away from Marion for much of the summer wasn’t easy for me, she was able to accompany me for a few weekends and stayed at one of the other members’ homes. The people loved her pleasant and caring manner and were thinking, I am sure, that she would make a wonderful pastor’s wife.
When I was approaching the end of my summer pastorate in Hamilton, the members decided that they would like me to continue on as the student pastor for the fall and winter while I completed my final year of studies at Bible college. I agreed to do that, and every weekend I travelled by train back and forth between Toronto and Hamilton. It meant that I was a very busy young man with my studies, travels, and work, leaving little time for Marion and me to spend together. She handled it all very well, anticipating—as I was—the day when we would commit ourselves to living together as husband and wife.
During my student pastor days at the church during the summer, fall and winter, many new people attended our services and came into membership. Many of these were parents of children we had reached through our vacation Bible school, our Sunday school, a Friday night children’s program, and my work with the youth of the community.
As I was approaching my graduation and the conclusion of my student pastorate, the board and membership decided to extend a call to me to become their full-time pastor. Marion and I prayed about this, and we felt that God would have us accept the invitation and thus launch my full-time pastoral ministry.
The graduation ceremonies of Toronto Bible College were held in April of each year in Toronto’s Varsity Arena on Bloor St. It was always considered a very special event in church circles. In fact it had become known as the religious event of the year in Toronto. TBC (as most people referred to it) graduation ceremonies featured inspiring music from the well-trained college musical groups (mass choir, duets, quartets and solos) and soul-stirring congregational singing by the thousands of people in attendance. Ceremonies at my graduation were no different, except for one thing: I had been chosen to deliver one of the valedictorian addresses. What a thrill! For the first time in my life I would face three thousand people and declare what my years at the college had meant to me and more importantly what God’s Word and the Lord Jesus Christ meant to me. What an additional thrill it was to have my mom and nine siblings in the audience praying for me—and probably praying that I wouldn’t forget any of my lines! I was just as comfortable in front of thousands as I was in front of the 100 or so in my parish in Hamilton. It was also a joy to have a busload of parishioners from my parish in Hamilton in attendance.
Toronto Bible College was founded in 1894 as an interdenominational training centre for Christian young people who were considering full-time Christian service as a minister or foreign missionary and also for those who simply wanted to further their knowledge of the Bible and related subjects. In 1906 John McNicol became the principal of the school, and he continued in that position until 1946. However, Dr. McNicol continued his lectures until 1954, which meant that I was blessed to sit under his Spirit-filled ministry. He lectured from the series of books he had written, entitled Thinking Through the Bible, taking us students verse by verse through the Word of God. What a joy it was to take in his lectures!
On the occasion of Dr. McNicol’s 40th anniversary as principal of TBC, William Lyon Mackenzie King, then prime minister of Canada, wrote, “In our days at the University of Toronto, no undergraduate stood in higher esteem than John McNicol. That regard for his attainments of character and scholarship has grown with the years and today is recognized throughout Canada and the world.” No wonder Dr. John McNicol had such a profound influence on my life, both as a student and as a Christian leader, as did all the many professors of the college.
When I commenced my student pastorate, the congregation numbered around 30 (mostly older people). However, by the time I completed my three-year full-time pastorate, the attendance had more than quadrupled, with the majority of those being young couples and youth. Reaching youth for Christ has been one of the strongest aspects of my pastoral ministry. I have always believed that if a parish is to have a future ministry, it must reach out to youth in the present. I did so at this parish, my first, by holding gym nights in the local school during the fall and winter, playing softball with youth during the summer, and teaching a youth Bible class on Sunday mornings. What a thrill—in this parish and in all three of my parishes—to look out over the Sunday morning congregation and see so many youth, most of whom I had the joy of bringing into the church and, more importantly, into a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
It was in this church that I was ordained to the Baptist ministry. How lovely that my mom (who had been diagnosed with cancer at that time) could be present for such an important milestone in her son’s ministry and hear her son introduced as the Rev. Ernest Nullmeyer. It sounded good to me too!
Marion was very active in the church, leading a monthly women’s group, teaching a teenage girls’ Sunday school class and visiting the sick and shut-in on her own and also accompanying me. Everyone in the congregation loved her. She was in excellent health at the time and had no idea—thank God—what was ahead in regards to her health.
Many years following my ministry in my first parish, I was preaching at an anniversary service in Toronto, and after the service a tall good-looking young man came up to me and said, “Do you remember me?”
I looked him in the eyes (eyes never change, even though other physical features do) and replied, “I think your first name is Ron.”
Well, that brought a big smile to his face, and he responded, “Yes, from Normanhurst Baptist. I came to Christ under your ministry there, and now I am an elder in this church.” That brought a huge smile to my face! He then introduced me to his lovely wife and children. Yes, I had through my preaching, teaching, and activities with the youth sown the seed of God’s Word, the congregants had watered it with their prayers, and God had brought it to fruition (1 Corinthians 3:5–7). Praise be to God!
As I was approaching the end of three years at my first parish, I received an invitation to preach for a “call” (as Baptists call it) to a little downtown church in Barrie (Collier St. Baptist). The pulpit committee had visited my parish in Hamilton and liked what they heard and saw, particularly impressed, I am sure, with so many youth in the congregation. After hearing me preach, the members voted 100 percent in favour of issuing a call to me, and in March 1953 Marion and I moved to Barrie.
It was not long until the little sanctuary couldn’t accommodate the number of people that were attending. It was time to start looking for property outside of the downtown area. We purchased a property, and soon construction began of an edifice that would accommodate our large and growing Sunday services, Sunday school and weekday youth groups. While our new building was under construction we moved our services to a large Independent Order of Foresters (IOOF) hall. Dances were held there on Saturday evenings, so we had to have a large crew of volunteers turn up early on Sunday mornings to clean the place and set up 300 chairs. We then moved to an elementary school around the corner from our new location, which enabled us to use the classrooms for Sunday school classes.
The day we held dedication services in our beautiful new church building was one of the most exciting of my pastoral ministry, and what a joy to have my mom, brother and all eight sisters present for the grand opening!
During my nine-year ministry at what was now called Emmanuel Baptist, I had the joy of seeing the congregation grow exponentially from 40 to over 400. Much of the growth was due to my radio ministry on Wednesday mornings ( Good News Broadcast ) and our Sunday Evening Gospel Hour and maybe a little to my dynamic preaching style and also my appeal to youth. As occurred in my first parish in Hamilton, we witnessed amazing growth in that area of our church life. As I was still in my twenties in my early years at Emmanuel, I had the physical energy and stamina to be involved in all kinds of activities with the youth, including sports. What a joy to have many of our youth go into full-time Christian service and for many to go on serving our Lord in congregations wherever they settled!
While I was the pastor at Emmanuel, we were blessed with three boys coming into our lives: Barry, whom we adopted at six weeks of age, and Kevin and Bradley, sons that Marion gave birth to. Marion was a devoted mother to our three boys, taking an interest in every aspect of their lives and giving them the most important gifts a mother (or father) can give to their children: attention, acceptance, affirmation, appreciation and, above all, affection.
While I was pastoring at Emmanuel, I began to notice radical changes in Marion’s health. She was showing signs of severe lethargy when trying to carry out her responsibilities as a homemaker and a pastor’s wife. We made a visit to our family doctor, which became the first of a long series of visits as he tried to diagnose what Marion’s health problem was.

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